Danny Brown finds identity within timing and trajectory

Monday 26th, September 2016 / 02:04
By Graeme Wiggins
Time and experience has helped create a unique flavour for Detroit rapper Danny Brown. Photo: Timothy Saccenti

Time and experience has helped create a unique flavour for Detroit rapper Danny Brown.
Photo: Timothy Saccenti

VANCOUVER — For someone who occasionally calls himself the “Adderall Admiral” and is known for a certain degree of altered-state tomfoolery, Danny Brown is in a pretty chill place right now. He explains, “I’m home. Right now I’ve just been trying to relax and prepare myself mentally and take care of myself. Because you know on the road, you can’t take care of yourself and, like, be healthy. You have to eat shitty food, a lot of stuff you have no choice over.” With his latest album Atrocity Exhibition coming out in September and a tour in support, things are quickly about to get crazy for Brown. It’s important that he do the right things to prepare: “Trying to drink a lot of water. Like a detox, you know what I’m saying? I know I’m about to be gone for the next three to four months so the best thing to do is just sit around [and] relax.”

Atrocity Exhibition, named after a Joy Division song, is the spiritual successor of his critically acclaimed album, XXX. For Brown, his music is somewhat of a documentary about where he’s at. “Every album is always pretty much about my life, you know? Whereas, with Old I went back in time and let people know where I came from; with this album it’s picking up where XXX left off,” he explains. Like a standup comic who needs to take some time between writing in order to have enough experiences in order to have something to joke about, Brown needed some time to have life give him things to rap about. So if, the obvious question is, XXX represented where he was at a few years ago, where exactly is he at now? “I’m good. It’s the best I’ve [ever] been. Whenever you can take that much time to make a project, obviously things have to be going good. I feel like a lot of people just want to rush. They just want to hurry and make money. They have to put out a new project so they can work. With me, I just wanted to take a little time and live life so I could have more stuff to write about, you know?”

That time was a luxury Brown felt he could afford, given the state of hip hop today and his place in it. While it’s common for the Young Thugs of the world to release upwards of five to 10 albums’ worth of material a year, Brown occupies a pretty singular space in the industry. “I never really rush music like that. I don’t have to try to stay relevant or anything like that. I’m in my own lane doing my own thing. I don’t have competition or anything. I don’t have to worry. I can’t lose my job from taking time off because there ain’t no one doing what I’m doing.”

Press around the album so far suggests that musically it’s a closer in sound to XXX than Old, but for Brown it’s really a little more complicated than that. He clarifies: “I wouldn’t say that because I think I always progress with every album, I just think that it’s the closest thing that people can compare it to. I don’t want to say that it’s a new thing because I think I’ve been on the road to make music like this for awhile, I just think that now it’s coming to realization in song form.” In the same sense that someone who is trying to draw a picture from their mind’s eye and repetition slowly brings the image closer and closer, the mental picture Brown sees is his music getting closer to what he’s trying to achieve. “I would say that when I make certain songs, you can make the same song a thousand times and the thousandth one will be better than the first one, you get me? A lot of these songs are songs that I’ve probably made before now they are just bigger better faster and stronger,” he maintains.

And don’t get the wrong idea: while there are more collaborations on this album than previously, the songwriting remains Brown’s. “I bring people in, but the songwriting is pretty much all me; I don’t need help writing songs. Producing is one thing. I’m not a producer, I’m a songwriter.” To make the point clearer, “I mean, Prince didn’t have features, Michael Jackson didn’t need help moonwalking, you know?”

Catch Danny Brown live October 6 at the Vogue Theatre and check out Atrocity Exhibition out September 30 on Warp Records.

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